What opportunity integrates science, business, law, and entrepreneurship? UTRF’s Commercialization Analyst Program.
This unique program provides qualified graduate students with hands-on experience in the commercialization of intellectual property. Students work together with the UTRF licensing staff to aid in the evaluation, marketing, and licensing of innovative technologies developed across all campuses of the University of Tennessee. From participating in invention disclosure screenings and discovery meetings, to assessing the intellectual property landscape and identifying potential licensees, commercialization analysts play a key role in moving innovations from the lab to the marketplace.
Other benefits of the program extend beyond technology transfer. Students hone communication skills and learn market and industry analyses that benefit them professionally, regardless of their chosen career path. They also observe practical application of business principles in areas of entrepreneurship, intellectual property protection, and licensing agreements. As a result, students leave the program with a greater understanding of the commercialization process and the impact of intellectual property on research growth and economic development.
Vanessa Nguyen, 2018 Commercialization Analyst and PhD graduate in Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology, provides personal insight on the program’s value: “The UTRF Commercialization Analyst Program highlighted the skill set I developed in graduate school and helped me prepare for job interviews by providing concrete examples of how I used particular skill sets in a non-lab setting.”
The recently selected 2019–2020 commercialization analyst class brings diverse experience and expertise to the table. Riley Boone, Brenden Holbrook, and Walt Tebbs come to the UTRF Multi-Campus Office from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Despite their common course of study, their backgrounds differ widely.
East Tennessean Riley Boone studied accounting as an undergraduate student at Southern Adventist University in Chattanooga.
Brenden Holbrook, originally from Charleston, West Virginia, majored in psychology at Alderson Broaddus University, holding positions in both marketing and management along the way.
New Jersey native Walt Tebbs earned his undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering from UT, where he focused on nuclear decommissioning and environmental management.
“The students bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to the commercialization process,” says UTRF Vice President Maha Krishnamurthy. “Diversity of knowledge among analysts adds tremendous value to UTRF because invention disclosures come from a variety of research disciplines, representing the bredth and depth of research done at the university.”
Whether it’s a novel orchardgrass from UTIA, cell lines for immunotherapy from GSM, a novel swim resistance device from UTK, or a once daily topical glaucoma therapy from UTHSC, innovation really can come from anywhere. “It’s been rewarding to draw upon my scientific and STEM background as I’m researching and making recommendations for our projects,” Walt commented, “particularly the more technology-focused innovations.”
For Brenden, the variety of learning opportunities available at UTRF led to an interest in the program. “I hope to apply my law degree toward working with small businesses and entrepreneurs, and have long been interested in intellectual property,” Brenden said. “Gaining experience with the transition from research to commercialization in projects all across the board is invaluable to my career.”
The Commercialization Analyst Program can also enlighten students exploring potential career directions. Science professions aren’t bound by the walls of a research laboratory, and the practice of law isn’t limited to the doors of a courthouse. These trades intertwine in many ways with economics and entrepreneurship, and UTRF sits at the heart of that intersection.
For Riley, the program affords a new angle on his interest in mergers and acquisitions, an important focus area for advanced-stage businesses. “I’m very interested in the business-facing components of law,” he said. “This program offers the rare opportunity to gain hands-on experience in getting a new business or product off the ground.”
Since the program’s inception in 2011, UTRF has hosted 26 analysts, who have gone on to secure jobs in areas including law, venture capitalism, consulting, business development, and entrepreneurship. The unique education in commercializing UT innovations continues to help students develop career skills and explore opportunities away from the bench.
For more information about the UTRF Commercialization Analyst Program, visit https://utrf.tennessee.edu/about/internships/.